Recycling Polymeric Solid Wastes for Energy-Efficient Water Purification, Organic Distillation, and Oil Spill Cleanup

Feng Gong, Hao Li, Xiangzhou Yuan, Jigang Huang, Dawei Xia, Dimitrios V. Papavassiliou, Rui Xiao, Yusuke Yamauchi, Kevin C.W. Wu, Yong Sik Ok

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Conventional approaches (e.g., pyrolysis) for managing waste polymer foams typically require highly technical skills and consume large amounts of energy resources. This paper presents an ultrafacile, cost-effective, and highly efficient alternative method for recycling waste packaging and cleaning foam (e.g., polymelamine–formaldehyde foam). The designed solar absorber, a polypyrrole-coated melamine foam (PMF), features a highly porous structure, excellent mechanical strength, low thermal conductivity, and rapid water transport capacity. These exceptional properties render the PMF suitable for multiple applications, including energy-efficient solar-powered water purification, ethanol distillation, and oil absorption. In water purification, the PMF yields a solar–thermal conversion efficiency as high as 87.7%, stability that is maintained for more than 35 operation cycles, and antifouling capabilities (when purifying different water types). In solar distillation, the PMF achieves a concentration increase up to 75 vol% when distilling a 10 vol% ethanol solution. In oil absorption, the PMF offers an oil-absorption capacity of ≈70 g g−1 with only a 7% loss in capacity after 100 absorbing–squeezing cycles. Thus, systems combining solar energy with various waste foams are highly promising as durable, renewable, and portable systems for water purification, organic distillation, and oil absorption, especially in remote regions or emergency situations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2102459
Issue number46
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Nov 18


  • pollution remediation
  • polymeric waste
  • recycling
  • sustainable development
  • water-energy-waste nexus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)


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